Summary and Detailed Notes for Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby
Brief Summary of Chapter 2
Valley of Ashes
The valley of ashes is situated between West Egg and New York. It is characterized by ashes that grow like wheat into ridges and hills, and the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg watch over it.
A small and unprosperous garage exists in a desolate area. Tom Buchanan and the narrator meet with the owner and his wife, with Tom making plans to meet with the woman later.
Tom Buchanan, Doctor Eckleburg, and a woman named Mrs. Wilson travel to New York and stop at a train station. Mrs. Wilson buys a dog from a street vendor for $10.
The narrator and Tom take a cab to Myrtle’s small, crowded apartment filled with large furniture, magazines, and a hen photograph. They drink whiskey and make phone calls before guests arrive.
Gathering in a Room
This passage describes the physical appearance and behavior of Catherine, Mr. McKee, and Mrs. Wilson at a gathering in a room. The characters’ personalities and occupations are briefly touched upon.
The group of people gathered in the room discuss photography and art, and conversation turns to Gatsby and his rumored relation to Kaiser Wilhelm. Myrtle seems unhappy in her marriage. Catherine shares that Tom and Myrtle are unhappy in their marriages and should get divorced; Myrtle reveals that it’s Tom’s wife who won’t grant him a divorce, and Catherine shares that they plan to move west together. The group also discusses their past relationships and mistakes.
Tom orders food, and the narrator feels pulled into their arguments. Myrtle plans to buy various items. Time passes quickly. Amidst a chaotic party, Tom Buchanan breaks Mrs. Wilson’s nose. Mr. McKee leaves and offers to have lunch with the narrator, who later falls asleep in a train station.
Detailed Notes on Chapter 2
The Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby
•The Valley of Ashes is a desolate area of land between West Egg and New York, where ashes grow into ridges and hills that resemble grotesque gardens.
•The ashes take on the form of houses, chimneys, rising smoke, and even men who seem to be crumbling already.
•Gray cars that crawl along an invisible track give out a ghastly creak and stop, and ash-gray men stir up an impenetrable cloud to hide their operations.
•The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, with their blue and gigantic irises, watch over the dumping ground from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles.
•The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and nearby trains passengers wait for at least a minute to cross, giving them a view of the dismal scene.
•Tom Buchanan’s acquaintances insisted on his having a mistress, and I first meet her when Tom pulls me off a train and takes me to see her.
Exploring the Garage in The Great Gatsby
•The garage described appears to be rundown and uninviting, with only a single car visible.
•The owner, George B. Wilson, is introduced as a weak and anaemic man, unenthusiastic about the business.
•Tom visits the garage and talks to Wilson about buying a car from him, but the conversation quickly turns tense.
•A woman, Wilson’s wife, interrupts and greets Tom with a sensuous air, asking her husband to get chairs for the visitors.
•Tom arranges a meeting with the woman, and they plan to see each other soon, meeting by the newsstand.
A trip to New York with the Buchanans
•A scrawny Italian child is setting torpedoes along the railroad track
•Tom and Doctor Eckleburg exchange disapproving looks about the area
•Tom and his girl, along with the narrator, head to New York together while Mrs. Wilson sits in another car to catch her husband’s disapproval
•Mrs. Wilson changes into a brown figured muslin dress and buys magazines, cold cream, and perfume from a newsstand and a drugstore
•Mrs. Wilson chooses a lavender taxi with gray upholstery and stops to buy a puppy from an old man on the street
•Mrs. Wilson excitedly asks about the puppy’s breed while the man admires its coat and sells it for $10
•Tom argues with the man about the puppy’s gender, stating it is a boy, while Mrs. Wilson delicately asks if it is a girl
•The group drives over to Fifth Avenue after buying the puppy.
A Sunday afternoon at Myrtle’s apartment
•The setting is warm and pastoral on a summer Sunday afternoon.
•Tom urges the narrator to come up to Myrtle’s apartment so as not to hurt her feelings.
•They arrive at an apartment building on 158th Street and enter Myrtle’s small, cramped top-floor apartment.
•The living room is packed with over-large furniture, and the only picture is a blurry photo of a hen that resolves into a bonnet when looked at from afar.
•Mrs. Wilson’s focus is on her dog, and Tom brings out a bottle of whiskey.
•The narrator goes out to buy cigarettes, and when he returns, he finds that Tom and Myrtle have disappeared.
•Company begins to arrive at the apartment door.
Meeting the Wilsons and McKees
•Catherine is a worldly girl with red hair and a milky white complexion. Her eyebrows are drawn in a rakish angle, but the restoration of the old alignment gives a blurred look to her face. She wears pottery bracelets on her arms that constantly click as she moves.
•Mr. McKee is a feminine man who is a photographer. He greets everyone in the room most respectfully. His wife is shrill, languid, and tells everyone that her husband has photographed her 127 times since they got married.
•Mrs. Wilson is wearing an elaborate cream-colored chiffon dress, and her personality has undergone a significant change as she’s expanded the room around her. She speaks in a high, mincing tone, and shares a story about a woman who visited to look at her feet.
•Mrs. McKee compliments Mrs. Wilson’s dress, but she rejects it disdainfully, saying that she wears it when she doesn’t care what she looks like. Mrs. McKee insists that she looks wonderful, and suggests a pose for her husband to make something of it.
The Great Gatsby – Chapter 2, Description of Characters
•Mr. McKee studies facial features and lighting to enhance portraits of his subjects.
•Mrs. McKee opposes changing the lighting during a photoshoot while Mr. McKee suggests improvements.
•Tom Buchanan interrupts and asks for more drinks.
•Myrtle complains about the lower classes and flirts with the dog before proceeding to the kitchen.
•Mr. McKee boasts about his photography work on Long Island.
•Catherine, Tom’s sister, strikes a conversation with the narrator and mentions attending a party at Gatsby’s.
•Catherine reveals her fear of Gatsby since she believes he is connected to Kaiser Wilhelm.
•Mrs. McKee suggests that her husband take Catherine as his next subject.
•Tom teases Mr. McKee about creating a portrait titled “George B. Wilson at the Gasoline Pump.”
•Catherine reveals that neither Mr. nor Mrs. McKee like their spouses.
Conversation about Marriages and Europe
•Catherine suggests Tom and Myrtle should get a divorce and marry each other.
•Myrtle violently defends Tom’s wife when asked if she dislikes Wilson.
•Catherine reveals Tom’s wife is a Catholic, hence opposes divorce.
•Myrtle tells Catherine she married Wilson because she thought he was a gentleman, but now regrets it.
•Myrtle denies being crazy about Wilson and points at the narrator, indicating his involvement in her past.
•Lucille confesses she nearly married a Jewish man but didn’t because he was beneath her.
•Myrtle states that she did marry Wilson.
•Catherine asks Myrtle why she married Wilson, and Myrtle admits to making a mistake.
Scenes from “The Great Gatsby”
•Catherine expresses concern for Myrtle and her husband’s relationship.
•Tom provides a second bottle of whiskey after the first is quickly consumed.
•The group indulges in celebrated sandwiches from the janitor.
•The narrator is torn between wanting to walk and being pulled into arguments and conversations.
•The narrator feels simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the variety of life.
•Myrtle recounts meeting Tom for the first time and her excitement.
•Myrtle talks of her plans to buy various items, including a dress to give to Mrs. McKee.
•The narrator realizes that time has passed, with it now being an hour later than expected.
A chaotic night in “The Great Gatsby”
•Mr. McKee is asleep with clenched fists, while the little dog groans on the table.
•Tom and Mrs. Wilson argue about Daisy’s name; Tom breaks her nose after she shouts it.
•There are bloody towels, women scolding, and a figure on the couch bleeding, attempting to cover Versailles tapestry with a magazine.
•Mr. McKee wakes up and watches the chaotic scene before leaving.
•He invites the narrator to lunch, and they leave the party.
•The narrator stands beside Mr. McKee’s bed as he reads out the titles of his portfolio.
•The narrator then waits for the four o’clock train.
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